1. Lamb Shanks
- sizes vary considerably so make sure you get ones that will fit in your cooking vessel!
4 x 400g/13oz lamb shanks fits snugly in a 26cm/11" diameter Chasseur dutch oven which is what I use. They don't need to be completely submerged, just as long as most of the meaty end is mostly submerged, that's fine.
If you don't have a pot large enough, you can switch to a baking dish for the slow cooking part, and cover with a double layer of foil if you don't have a lid for it.
You can also ask your butcher to cut the shaft so it bends if you are concerned, or to trim it slightly.
2. Onion, carrot and celery
is the "holy trinity" of slow cooking, creating a beautiful flavour base for the sauce. It's not a deal breaker to exclude the carrot and celery, but it does give the sauce an extra edge.
3. Wine -
Use a good value full bodied red wine, like cabaret sauvignon or merlot. Shiraz is ok too. No need to use expensive wine for slow cooked recipes like this (and the New York Times agrees
). Use discount end of bin specials (I get mine from Dan Murphey's). Pinots not suitable, too light.
99% of the alcohol in the red wine evaporates during cooking. The sauce does not taste winey at all, it completely transforms.
Non alcoholic sub:
1.5 cups beef broth LOW SODIUM, 1 cup water. + 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce. Beef has a stronger deeper flavour than chicken so will be more suited to being the sub for wine.
4. Most of the alcohol in the red wine will evaporate during this step but not completely - it will finish evaporating during the slow cooking. The sauce does not taste winey at all, it completely transforms.
5. Sauce options:
The other option is to blitz the sauce using a sick blender. The sauce will be thicker, and you'll have more of it (leftovers great tossed through pasta). This is what I used to do, but nowadays I prefer to strain the sauce because I like how glossy and rich it is - this is how restaurants serve it. You could also skip straining or blitzing, it just means you get little veg lumps in the sauce. All are tasty options, it mainly comes down to visual.
If you strain the sauce, keep the veggies etc in the strainer to make a terrific sauce, they are loaded with flavour even though all juice is squeezed out of them. What I do is make a basic tomato sauce with garlic, onion, canned tomato and water. Then I blitz that with the veggies. Use it to make a killer pasta or lasagna!!
6. OTHER COOK OPTIONS:
- Follow recipe to step 7. Bring sauce to simmer, scrape bottom of pot to get all brown bits into the liquid. Place shanks in slow cooker, add the sauce. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove shanks, strain and reduce sauce to desired thickness on stove (if you blitz per Note 5, you won't need to reduce).
- Follow Slow Cooker steps, cook for 40 minutes on high. Release pressure according to manufacturer directions.
- to cook this on the stove, cook for about 2 hours on low, ensuring that you check it at 1 hour then every 30 minutes thereafter to ensure there is enough braising liquid (because liquid evaporates faster on the stove). Turn the lamb shanks twice. You won't get the brown crust, but the flavour is the same!
7. Cauliflower puree
- boil cauliflower florets until soft, drain and let steam dry for few minutes. Then puree with butter, milk or cream, salt and pepper. Use milk to adjust the consistency to your taste.
per serving. This is conservative - it doesn't take into account fat trimmed from shanks or discarded fat. Also assumes all sauce is consumed which it probably won't be.
Originally published August 2015, updated with new photos, video and a slightly refined recipe. Previously the base recipe said to blitz the sauce at the end. It looks much posher and actually does taste nicer just to strain it. :)